Nursing School Requirements for Prospective Students

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurses studying for nursing school

Nurses are consistently ranked number one among the most trusted professions. Practicing as a nurse requires an artful combination of skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics.

Some of you may already know without a doubt you want to be a part of this trusted profession, whereas others may want to find out how to get into nursing school before making a decision. Whichever camp you fall in, you can relax. We’ll take the complication out of nursing school requirements and make it easy to understand.

What Are Nursing School Requirements?

One of the beauties of nursing is all the opportunities at your fingertips, and this begins with your nursing school choices. Because you have so many options — degree, school, location — you’ll also have varying prerequisites.

Generally speaking, your prerequisite courses for an associate degree in nursing (ADN) program will be similar to those of a bachelor degree in nursing (BSN) program. As both programs prepare you to become an entry level registered nurse (RN), both will provide the foundational knowledge you need.

Other requirements, like a criminal background check, will likely be consistent among program types because all require clinical rotations and the ability to work in facilities with specific background requirements.

That said, there are some differences when applying to nursing school. We’ve broken the requirements down based on whether you pursue an ADN or BSN program. If you wish to become a certified nursing assistant, some of this information may be helpful to keep in mind, especially if you want to eventually become a registered nurse.

Prerequisite Courses for Nursing School

Before beginning nursing school, you must take prerequisite courses to ensure you have a strong foundation upon which you’ll build your nursing knowledge. You can enroll in a nearby community college or four-year university to take the necessary courses.

Be ready to focus on the sciences. If science courses aren’t your strength, don’t hesitate to reach out to a tutor. Nursing school prerequisites are opportunities to hone your studying skills and academic resources. Successfully completing the prerequisites indicates your ability to make it through the more difficult coursework down the line.

Below are common nursing school prerequisites:

  • Anatomy and physiology: the study of the body’s structure, the relationship between body parts, and how the many facets of the body function as a whole.
  • Biology: the study of living organisms
  • Microbiology: the study of the biology of microscopic organisms
  • Chemistry: the study of the substances that compose matter, as well as their properties, uses, and reactions
  • English: the study of English language and composition
  • Nutrition: the study of food, nutrients, and their relationships to the human body
  • Psychology: the study of the human mind and its functions
  • Statistics: the science of analyzing numerical data in large quantities

ADN Program Requirements

An associate degree in nursing is a two-year program that prepares you to be a registered nurse. It involves coursework, lab work, and clinical rotations.

Program Requirements

Depending on the program you choose, your specific nursing school requirements may differ. For example, your ADN program may allow you to complete required classes alongside your nursing courses, if you complete them by graduation.

What you’ll need:

High school diploma or GED: Most programs require a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.

High school or college courses: Common required classes for your nursing school application include chemistry, biology, math, English, and nutrition. Some schools may require a passing grade of a C or higher. Other schools may place a timeline on when these classes were completed, such as within the past five years.

Pre-entrance exam: Some schools require a test to get into nursing school, like the TEAS or PAX exam. These tests are similar to the SAT or ACT; they test a student’s general knowledge. Passing this exam ensures that a student is prepared and ready to enter a nursing program.

Criminal background check: Many schools require completing a criminal background check before you can be accepted into the nursing school. The main reason for this is to ensure that patients are kept safe when you are caring for them in your clinical rotations.

Drug screening: This is often required for similar reasons as the background check — to ensure patient safety during clinical rotations.

BSN Program Requirements

A bachelors of science in nursing is a four-year program that prepares you to be a registered nurse, and is the first step on the path to obtaining your master’s of science in nursing (MSN). Like the ADN program, it will require a combination of coursework, lab work, and clinical rotations. Your nursing school requirements for a BSN program will include many of those from the ADN program.

Program Requirements

Some of these requirements may be university-wide, such as a written communications class. Others are specifically nursing school requirements, such as anatomy and physiology.

When selecting your program, be sure to learn about both the university prerequisites and nursing school prerequisites, as you will have to pass all classes in order to graduate.

What you’ll need:

High school diploma or GED: Most schools require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Some universities may be stricter and require two years of general college education before acceptance into their BSN program.

College-level courses: Common classes include anatomy and physiology I and II (with lab), microbiology (with lab), statistics, psychology, chemistry, nutrition, biology, and written communications.

You may also see criteria that require you to pass these courses with C or higher.

Entrance exams: Just like with ADN programs, entrance exams such as the TEAS may be required.

Essay: Many schools require you to write a personal statement in order to be accepted into the nursing program. Some programs are especially competitive — this essay is your chance to stand out.

Letters of recommendation: Usually three letters are required from past teachers or employers. Some schools will also allow personal recommendations.

Criminal background check: You will be caring for patients during your clinical rotations. This background check ensures you are trustworthy and patients will be safe.

Drug testing: A drug test may also be required for similar reasons as the background check.

Other Requirements

Depending on the route you choose, you may also encounter these other requirements. Some may be required before starting your program, before clinical rotations, or before graduation.

  • Vaccinations
  • CPR certification

How to Get Started

The first step is to graduate from high school or complete a GED. Then, start researching programs and see what their particular nursing school requirements are.

Reach out to a program advisor for specific questions and tips about how to get accepted into nursing school.

Do I Need Healthcare Experience to Be Accepted into Nursing School?

Absolutely not. You do not need to have any type of healthcare or nursing experience to be accepted into nursing school.

If finances are a concern, learn the options for paying for nursing school that are available to you.

How Can I Prepare for My Nursing School Interview?

Once they like what they see on paper, the admissions department will want to meet you in person! Feeling nervous is understandable, but it’s also a great time to pat yourself on the back. You’ve made it further than most applicants. Here are some tips to maximize your success in the interview process.

Do Your Research

Educate yourself on the nursing industry, especially current affairs and projected future trends. They’ll come in handy in your practice, so your interviewer may want to know your grasp on the overall profession. Nursing is constantly evolving, so for you to be a successful alumnus, they’ll need to know if you can adapt.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes: Would you choose an applicant who appears lukewarm about attending your school, or the applicant who’s enthusiastic. It’s a no brainer. Make sure you have a firm grasp on why you chose that particular school. Feedback from friends? A reputation for excellence? Ample student support? Being invited to an interview is their way of showing interest in you, this is your chance to return the favor. Make the most of it.

Practice in Mock Interviews

Having an idea of how you’ll respond will go a long way toward impressing the admissions department. Practicing with a guidance counselor or someone else who would give valuable feedback is ideal, but if you don’t have those options, you’ve always got a mirror. Practicing alone is better than nothing. Here are some interview topics to consider:

  • Current affairs
  • Mock patient situations and ethical dilemmas
  • Why you want to be a nurse and what this profession means to you
  • A general description of your personality
  • Why you chose that specific nursing school

Take Care of Yourself

Not being in the right mental state is enough to throw you off no matter how much you’ve practiced. Ensure your body’s needs are met, and that you have calming techniques to quell the butterflies. Get a good night’s rest, make sure you’ve had enough to eat, and address any aches and pains. Is an issue from your personal life on your mind? Find a way to set it aside long enough for the interview. You’ve got this, so make sure it shows.

Feel Free to Ask Questions

Remember, the interview is both their opportunity to assess you, and for you to assess them. Have your own questions in mind. Not only will you gain more insight that could impact your decision, but this shows your interest and investment in becoming a part of their institution. Below are some questions you can ask:

  • What are the program’s main strengths and weaknesses?
  • What academic support do you provide students?
  • How would you describe student life outside of academics?
  • What are some hospitals that host students for clinical rotations?
  • What makes a student successful here?

What Can I Do After Graduation?

After you get all the nursing school requirements in order and you pass nursing school, you will be ready to take the NCLEX exam. Passing this test will give you your long-awaited nursing license! You probably got an idea of where you want to work during your clinical rotations. If not, that’s totally okay. You’re going to have so many options. Want help finding the right job? See how IntelyCare can help you create a manageable work schedule.

Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN, contributed to the writing of this article.